Florida Gator Recruiting: Extra Point

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The big basketball weekend brought 11 basketball recruits to the O’Dome on Saturday. It also brought two big football recruits in as well.

Five star defensive ends CeCe Jefferson and Byron Cowart both took in the amazing atmosphere of Senior Day at the O’Connell Center. The two have built a considerable bond and appear to be inseparable on the recruiting trail. The latest report is that these two plan on attending the same college. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen but the two sit atop the Gators recruiting board both overall and at defensive end. The good news for Gator fans is that the staff has built a solid relationship with both.

While they are certainly nowhere near a lock for the Gators, I’d have to say the Gator staff has set themselves up well with these two and have to be considered odds on favorite at this point. Of course, there’s still a long way to go before they decide and every major program in America are coming after them.

Having them attend the game yesterday with the rocking atmosphere surrounding a top rated basketball program and a historic day, can’t hurt the Gators chances for sure. It’s good to show recruits that the Gators compete for championships at every level in every sport. Long way to go for these two, who are expected to wait until the all american games before announcing, but the Gators are in solidly in a good position for these two.

Linebacker Adonis Thomas, from Lawrenceville, GA Central Gwinnett high, recently received an offer from the home state Georgia Bulldogs. Reportedly the Dawgs and the Gators are currently recruiting him the hardest.

The Gators really like his versatility as they are recruiting him for the Buck linebacker position which is a hybrid linebacker/defensive end position. He has the length the staff covets with a great frame to add weight and he has good speed and solid cover skills as well as great pass rush ability.

With the Gators seeking three to four linebackers in this cycle, primarily outside linebackers, Thomas and Jeffrey Holland appear to be the top two guys on their board. They really like Thomas and expect the staff to put on the full court press for him. While he lists no leaders, many analysts feel he is a strong Gator lean.

Speaking of Holland, he reportedly tripped to Miami this weekend and appeared to be impressed with what he saw from the Canes program. While they may have made up some ground in his recruitment, he is still likely holding Florida and Auburn at the top of his list. Personally, I’ll be terribly surprised if he doesn’t sign with the Gators in the end.

Florida appears to be getting a look from five star defensive end Mekhi Brown, from Columbus, GA Carver high who is currently committed to Alabama. He is expected to visit this weekend to check out spring practice. The Gators are also recruiting him as a Buck linebacker. While still committed to the Tide, Brown reportedly is checking out his options with a few other schools. Of those schools, Florida will get the first look. While he maintains that he has a strong relationship with the staff, he’s still a longshot for the Gators. However, if for some reason he decommits from Alabama, the Gators might be a favorite to pick up his commitment assuming he likes everything he sees on the visit this weekend.

Stay tuned to Swamp Music for more extra points and the latest in FREE Florida Gators recruiting and athletics news.

Countdown to Signing Day: Final Analysis

Gator quarterback early enrollee Will Grier receives the Parade All America team Player of the Year Award, joining Emmitt Smith, Brock Berlin, and Chris Leak as Gator's who have won the award.

Gator quarterback early enrollee Will Grier receives the Parade All America team Player of the Year Award, joining Emmitt Smith, Brock Berlin, and Chris Leak as Gator’s who have won the award.

With national signing day less than 24 hours away, it’s time to reflect on the long journey that is finally coming to an end for high school football recruits in the class of 2014. The culmination of years of hard work and sweat equity resulting in the inclusion and participation in a strictly American process where highly paid grown men pursue youngsters barely past the age of puberty with the vim and vigor of a speed dating used car salesman. With recruiting being a year round game and starting earlier and earlier, the Gators already have a commitment for the 2016 class, some of these recruits have been in the fire for quite some time. For most recruits, particularly the top level ones who face an onslaught of external contact from coaching staffs and fans through snail mail, phone calls, social media, and personal visits, national signing day is somewhat cathartic. The end of a long, arduous journey, they can finally relax with letter of intent (LOI) in hand. A scholarship to the school of their choice waiting for them and the opportunity to continue playing the game they love. For many, the opportunity to continue pursuit of their lifelong goal of making it to the NFL where fame, fortune, and adulation await. 

For recruits, all the hopes and dreams and the dogged pursuit of lofty goals begin on national signing day. For coaching staffs, the regeneration of rosters from the yearly decimation of graduation and players leaving early for the NFL as well as the building of a solid foundation for the program begins on national signing day as well. The old saying “it’s not about the x’s and the o’s but the Jimmy’s and the Joes” stands as true to day as it ever has. When Florida won two out of three BCS titles and Alabama won three out of four was it because the staffs were so much smarter than everybody else? Maybe, but more likely it’s because they out-recruited the other guys.

For fans, national signing day is all about the game within the game. Recruiting itself has become a game in it’s own right with rankings and mythical titles handed out yearly by websites devoted specifically to recruiting. In fact, over the last 30 years recruiting for the fans has become so big it has sprung up handful’s of sites which cash in on fan interest. So much so that all of the major sites have been bought out by major sports conglomerates such as CBSSports, Yahoo Sports, and now even NBCSports is getting in on the action. ESPN has a whole division in it’s global empire devoted specifically to recruiting and arguably interest in recruiting itself now rivals that of the sports themselves. But everything begins on national signing day.

For the 2014 graduating class, that day is tomorrow at 7 am which is when recruits are first allowed to fax in their LOI’s, with the exception being those student athletes who enrolled early for the spring semester. For fans, recruits, and coaching staffs alike national signing day can be one of the most nerve wracking days of the year. Many of the top players wait to announce until signing day, some even take longer, although the amount of players announcing on signing day appears to be dwindling year after year as coaches press recruits to make decisions sooner to ensure their inclusion in the class and to avoid embarrassing situations for the staffs of being spurned at the last moment by top targets at positions of highest need with no opportunity for a plan b. Besides those who wait to announce on signing day, there is always those recruits who appear to be waffling late on prior commitments, taking late visits to other schools, or upset by a staff’s continued recruitment of competition at their position looking to find spots in another team’s class. Staff’s sit impatiently by fax machines, yes they still head-scratchingly still use fax machines, waiting for those top recruits LOI’s to come through while fans sit by computer screens continually refreshing screens awaiting news of top players finally signed, sealed, and delivered.

So national signing day 2014 is finally upon us and within 24 hours Gator fans will see if a consensus top ten class will be bumped up into a top five class with the signatures of a few of the 14 uncommitted ESPN Top 100 players that list the Gators as finalists. With 21 commitments leaving only four open slots the Gators have done well to fill their positions of need with top talent and with numbers. The few recruits still remaining on their board are mostly top level recruits which will put an exclamation point on a top level class. At this point it’s time to analyze this class based on who they already have committed, what the needs are, who is left on the board, and what the expectations are for the final class.

First, let’s examine what the Gators needs are for this recruiting class. Every coaching staff has target projections for numbers at each position keeping in mind the NCAA limit of 85 scholarship players. This can vary greatly from staff to staff based upon what type of offense and defense they run. Assuming normal depth at each position, positional needs from year to year are based on attrition through graduation, players leaving early, transfers, medical hardships, etc… In this recruiting cycle top needs are quarterback (2), cornerback (3-5), offensive line (5-7), tight end (2-3), and defensive line (3-4).

At quarterback, the Gators gained an early commitment from their top target Will Grier and he has been solid in that commitment throughout. Originally, the staff only targeted one qb but after losing both Tyler Murphy and freshman Max Staver to post-season transfer, the staff was forced to scramble seeking another quarterback in this class. The main guy they targeted was FSU commit Treon Harris. With the switch to a spread offense under new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, it was imperative they find a solid dual threat qb who could not only compete with Grier for a backup slot but also compete with Driskel for a starting job. The only other scholarship qb left is Skylar Morninwheg who was pressed into late season duty due to injuries to Driskel and Murphy. It’s unclear what his role will be on the team moving forward and he is likely a candidate for transfer after spring football camp.

Harris, for his part, has been very tight lipped about his recruitment. His family is highly involved in the process with his father being the successful coach at Miami Booker T. Washington high school. While still committed to FSU, he is also considering the Gators whom he visited a couple of weekends ago and Auburn whom he visited the previous weekend. While he hasn’t commented much publicly he has stated his desire to play quarterback in college. This alone should bode well for the Gators who have recruited him specifically as a qb whereas FSU and Auburn have recruited him as an “athlete”. He also appears to be intrigued by Kurt Roper’s offense and believes his skill set is perfect for that system. All this bodes well for the Gators on signing day.

Will top corner prospect Adoree Jackson become a Gator on signing day? photo credit to ESPN.

Will top corner prospect Adoree Jackson become a Gator on signing day? photo credit to ESPN.

The biggest position of need for the Gators for this cycle is cornerback. With the Gators losing three of their top four corners due to graduation (Jaylen Watkins) and early draft entry (Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson) the Gators are seriously lacking in depth and experience. There is also some serious rumors floating that Cody Riggs is transferring out. This, if true, is very questionable as he only has a season remaining and would have every opportunity to compete for a starting corner position. On that note, the Gators have four corners committed, one athlete committed who can compete for time in the secondary, and are finalists for one other top corner in Adoree Jackson.

The four commits are five star and ESPN national top ten overall player Jalen Tabor, who flipped from his commitment to Arizona just before early enrollment after news came out that Marcus Roberson was leaving school early, as well as consensus four star recruits Duke Dawson, Quincy Wilson, and J.C. Jackson. Jackson is one of those recruits who will certainly be on flip watch on signing day as he has flirted with FSU whom he originally flipped to Florida from and Miami late in the process. Deondre Porter, another late flip from South Florida, is being recruited as an athlete and could very well spend some time in the defensive backfield if need be. Dawson and Wilson are very solid corner prospects who were dominant at the high school level and are expected to come in and compete for early playing time right off the back. The jewel of the class, however, is Tabor who is the consensus top two corner in the nation and will likely man one of the corner spots opposite last year’s freshman all american and fellow five star recruit Vernon Hargreaves.

The position of next highest need would have to be offensive line where they lost their interior (Halapio, Harrison, and Koehne) to graduation as well as Ian Silberman to transfer. After loading up on lineman in last year’s cycle it was important for them to do so again for depth purposes. To date they have five solid commitments led by top ESPN Top 100 offensive tackle David Sharpe. He was the staff’s top target at tackle and they landed him after he had flirted with Georgia for many months. Also in the fold are Travaris Dorsey, Nolan Kelleher, Drew Sarvary, and Kavaris Harkless. It needs to be noted that Dorsey hasn’t qualified yet and there is still a chance that he will not qualify. He says of course that he’ll be fine but it’s a big enough issue that coach Muschamp visited his school a few weeks ago to check on his academic progress. Regardless of how he ends up I believe the staff plans to allow him to sign a LOI and they’re content to monitor his progress. His situation, however, along with a rumor of a transfer or two that has already happened but yet to be announced presents an interesting scenario where the staff could actually oversign by one or two without penalty.

Will five star offensive tackle Damien Prince add to the top ten Gator recruiting class?

Will five star offensive tackle Damien Prince add to the top ten Gator recruiting class?

With the five already in the fold, the staff would still like to add at least one more and possibly two. The main guy they are pursuing is five star offensive tackle Damien Prince. He visited Florida this past weekend, the only 2014 recruit on campus for an official visit, and came away noticeably impressed. He is good friends with Jalen Tabor who has actively been recruiting him to Florida ever since he enrolled at UF. The staff feels confident that they can steal him away from the home state Maryland Terrapins. The only other recruit the staff has left on the board along the offensive line is tackle Derrick Kelley whom I’ve considered a plan b against Prince. However, it appears the staff sees him as more than a plan b and have actively been recruiting him and there’s a decent chance that he picks the Gators on signing day regardless of what Prince does. That leaves the question would the staff take both players? I think the answer is obviously yes depending upon how some other positions shake out on signing day.

The next biggest position of need for the Gators is at tight end where they have had ZERO production since Jordan Reed left early for the NFL. The staff signed the top two tight ends in America the year before last but Kent Taylor has decided to transfer and Colin Thompson has largely been injured. The other two tight ends Tevin Westbrook and Clay Burton have played extensively but contributed very little. It’s important for the staff to upgrade both numbers and talent at the position. The staff has done that with top two targets Moral Stephens and Deandre Goolsby as well as a lower rated project Cyontai Lewis. Both Stephens and Goolsby are athletic play makers with great hands in the mold of Jordan Reed and as play makers are certainly an upgrade over anyone currently on the roster at the position. With three solid commitments, the staff is done recruiting tight ends in this cycle.

Finally, defensive line is also an important area of need particularly at defensive tackle where Dominique Easley and Damien Jacobs have graduated. The Gators have a fantastic D line class committed currently with two more defensive ends on the board. The stars are defensive tackle Thomas Holley who flipped late from Penn State, defensive end Gerald Willis, the brother of Alabama safety Landon Thomas, who the Gators stole away from the home state LSU Tigers, and four star defensive tackle Khairi Clark. Defensive end Justus Reed and Taven Bryan round out the class. The two left on the board are consensus five star and ESPN Top Ten defensive end Lorenzo Carter and Rocel McWilliams a Missouri Tiger commitment.  Carter, an enigma for months, is genuinely torn between the home state Bulldogs and the Florida Gators whom he originally named his leader in February. McWilliams is equally torn between his longstanding commitment to and relationship with the Tigers and an offer from his dream school the Florida Gators who he and his family have long been fans of.

Wide receiver and running back are both positions that the Gators loaded up on in last year’s cycle and not positions of high need in this cycle. The Gators, who lost their top running back target Dalvin Cook, when he decommited from the Gators and then committed to FSU, quickly scrambled to bring in an ample replacement and did so by flipping Brandon Powell from the Miami Hurricanes. At receiver, the Gators have former Seminole commit Ryan Sousa on board and are still pursuing another former Nole commit in C.J. Worton. Isaiah McKenzie whom the staff tried very hard to bring in, has all but eliminated the Gators and is likely choosing between Virginia Tech and Ole Miss.

This brings us to final predictions for signing day and for the class as a whole. I believe the chance to play for a dream school in the SEC and in Roper’s offense where he will be targeted often is too much of an opportunity to pass up for C.J. Worton. Also the opportunity to play in front of friends and family and be close to home is equally important and Worton will sign with the Gators on Wednesday.

Damien Prince got the full court press from both the staff and good buddy Jalen Tabor this past weekend and I believe his relationship with Mike Summers and desire to play in an up tempo offense like Roper’s should be enough to overcome those around him who may be pushing him to stay close to home in state. While this certainly is no slam dunk for the Gators, I believe he will be a Gator on Wednesday. Derrick Kelley, on the other hand, while tempted to play closer to home, ultimately has too good of a relationship with the staff at LSU and has already pictured himself playing on the bayou and I expect he will be an LSU Tiger on signing day.

Adoree Jackson has expressed strong interest in continuing his two sport status while simulaneously playing two ways in football as well. That scenario would most likely benefit the Gators the most with them having a top rated track team and he having a solid relationship with both track coach Mike Holloway and his positon coach at UF Travaris Robinson, I believe that the Gators have done enough to make it close but ultimately the new staff at USC keeps him local.

Treon Harris while tight lipped about his recruitment has let slip enough to convince me that he will be a Gator as well. He loved his visit, loved the plan the staff laid out for him in Roper’s offense and will have the opportunity to compete for a starting job at quarterback from the start at Florida, something he won’t necessarily get at Auburn or FSU. In the end, however too much time has elapsed for the Gators and the good feeling of that visit has worn off and the chance to play for the national champions keeps him in the fold at FSU.

Which brings us to the final two recruits left to choose Florida or someone else Lorenzo Carter and Rocel McWilliams. With Carter the staff has done everything they needed to do to secure this pledge and it still might not be enough. If it were left purely up to Lorenzo, I believe we wouldn’t even being talking about this and he’d be a Gator tomorrow. However, the family is tight-knit and I believe family desires and distance win out here and Carter ends up in a Bulldog  uniform come signing day.

McWilliams, on the other hand, is one I believe is strongly leaning to the Gators at this point and with Carter going elsewhere I believe McWilliams will pull the trigger for the Gators tomorrow..

On a final note, the only Gator commit that has been looking around late is J.C. Jackson and there have been strong indications of a possible signing day flip, not to his former school of choice, FSU, but to the new guy on the block the Miami Hurricanes.  However, with him spurning FSU, not visiting on the final weekend, and missing out on the Miami home visit to make a late unofficial trip up to Gainesville, that bodes well for the Gators. Despite all the hype and the rumors of an impending decommit, I think Jackson ultimately sticks with the Gators.

So there you have it… My predictions. 21 commits who all sign LOI’s to Florida including J.C. Jackson. The Gators add three more on signing day, Damien Prince,  Rocel McWilliams, and C.J. Worton for a total of 24 total one short of their maximum for this class.

It’s important to note that the Gator class, already considered a consensus top ten class, could very well end up a top five class with the addition of some combination of the above players, but that is unlikely in my opinion. Three of these recruits will be among the thirteen uncommitted ESPN top 100 players announcing live on ESPN on signing day, Adoree Jackson, Damien Prince, and Lorenzo Carter. Additionally, head coach Will Muschamp will be one of thirty head coaches that will be interviewed by ESPN on signing day. Check out the ESPN announcement schedule here.

And as always stay tuned to Swamp Music for the latest in FREE news, analysis, and opinion on Gator recruiting and athletics. Follow Swamp Music on Twitter @Swamp_Music2 for live tweeting of Gator recruiting news as the LOI’s roll in.

Countdown to Signing Day: Final Weekend Wrap

Five star offensive tackle Damien Prince received the full court press from the staff this weekend. Was it enough to get him to sign with the Gators?

Five star offensive tackle Damien Prince received the full court press from the staff this weekend. Was it enough to get him to sign with the Gators?

The recruiting cycle for the 2014 class nears the end as national signing day approaches. The final touches on what is already a top ten class for the Florida Gators have been laid down and the quiet period has begun.

The Gators have 21 commitments with a maximum four slots left and a handful of recruits left on the board. The only official visitor from the 2014 class for the Gators this past weekend was five star offensive tackle Damien Prince out of Washington, D.C. The good news is the Gators were able to give him maximum attention. From all accounts he loved the visit and the staff believes they did what they had to do to build on the momentum of the last month in their favor and seal this recruitment down. Will it be enough to hold off the home state Maryland Terrapins? That remains to be seen, but I think the staff did everything they needed to do to get him to choose the Gators. His good friend corner back Jalen Tabor, who is already enrolled, was able to be his host and really show him a great time. He’s very fond of offensive line coach Mike Summers and has expressed a desire to play in new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper’s offense. He seemingly likes the up tempo, spread offense and sees himself as a good fit for that offense. The biggest question is how much distance from home is a factor and how much influence those around him are in his final decision. This one is trending very much in the Gators favor.

Corner back. two-way, and two sport star Adoree Jackson is the highest rated recruit left on the Gators board and, despite listing a final four of Florida, USC, UCLA, and LSU this one appears to be between Florida and USC. Ask ten recruiting analysts where they think he’s going and likely it will be split down the middle. Very hard to read but it’s interesting that despite announcing he wouldn’t be taking a fifth and final official visit this past weekend, he actually did make two unofficial visits to both USC and UCLA. Normally that would bode ill for the Gators, and may very well yet, but the fact that he has a great relationship with position coach and lead recruiter Travaris Robinson and the fact that track is very important to him and the Gators have one of the top programs in the nation, the visits may be less telling than one might think. While he has never taken an official visit to Florida, he did make it to campus on an unofficial visit last summer. He had previously mentioned it wasn’t important if he takes an official visit to Florida because he’s “seen everything he needs to see.” This one is very hard to read but the Gators have a strong chance here.

Another recruit that was said not to be visiting anywhere this weekend but got in a surprise unofficial visit was Gator commit J.C. Jackson. The corner back who has had an interesting recruitment for sure had previously been thought to be visiting FSU but his dad said last week he would not be visiting them nor anyone else this weekend. That led to speculation that Miami may now be the team to beat as they had sneaked in late on his recruitment and he had visited there multiple times since his official visit to UF. He actually had an in-home visit with the Miami staff scheduled for Saturday but ducked out to head to Gainesville leaving Miami coaches to conduct the in-home sans J.C.. The fact that he chose to visit UF on the last weekend and did it while spurning the Miami staff can only be good for the Gators. This one is trending up for the Gators.

Receiver C.J. Worton took his final official visit to West Virginia this weekend and came away informing the Gator staff he was down to Florida and West Virginia. He will inform both staff’s of his decision on Monday but won’t announce his decision until signing day. West Virginia has to be considered a serious player here with them getting the last visit and having an established offense. However, the Gators have a lot in their favor including closeness to home, strong football and academics, playing in the SEC, Kurt Roper whom he has mentioned he was very impressed with, and an older brother who played there. I think West Virginia likely was tempting but I don’t see him going all the way to West Virginia when he can play at a major SEC school like Florida. I could be wrong but I believe he’s the most likely of all left on the board to end up a Gator.

Lorenzo Carter took his final official visit to the home state Georgia Bulldogs this past weekend. While his camp remains tight lipped to this point, logic would have it that the Bulldogs have a leg up with distance, Pruitt, and the last visit being in their favor. I have to believe, however, that the staff has done a great job and this one really ends up being a toss up between the Dogs and the Gators.

Travis Rudolph, the wide receiver from South Florida whom the staff has been furiously trying to flip from his commitment to the Seminoles, allowed coach Muschamp to make an in-home visit and give him and his family his final pitch for the Gators. It didn’t work. He made a point to contact the Gator staff to inform them that he would be sticking with his Nole committment. The staff did a great job but just came up short. Too little, too late. Can’t blame a guy for trying. With McKenzie likely heading to Virginia Tech it appears the Gators last and only hope at receiver is Worton.

With 21 commitments, the Gators have only four spots remaining assuming J.C. Jackson sticks and everyone qualifies. There is a scenario where they could go over by one signing five more than what are already committed. Tomorrow I will go over every scenario and offer final predictions and a final mock signing class.

As always, stay tuned to Swamp Music for the latest in FREE Gator recruiting and athletics news, analysis, and opinion.

Big Names Expected for Florida Gator Junior Day

Martez Ivey is the top offensive line recruit for the Gators in 2015. photo credit to maxpreps.com

Martez Ivey is the top offensive line recruit for the Gators in 2015. photo credit to maxpreps.com

While the Florida Gators host only one official visitor on the final recruiting weekend for the 2014 class, a large, stellar 2015 group is expected in for UF’s junior day. While by no means is this an exhaustive list of all the expected visitor, the following names are a snapshot of some of the top guys coming in.

The group is led by receiver George Campbell, 6’4 185, from Tarpon Springs, Florida East Lake who is ranked 2nd overall in the nation by ESPN. Campbell is a tall receiver with speed. He reportedly runs a sub 4.4 40 yard dash which is fast period but especially for someone that is 6’4. Campbell had made a very early commitment to Michigan but has since backed off of that and the Gators have positioned themselves very well with his recruitment and could be the team to beat. Undoubtedly, he’s the top receiver and top offensive prospect on the Gators board. He’s considered an athlete on many recruiting services because he could very well play multiple positions in college particularly on special teams but for certain the Gators are recruiting him as a wide receiver. He would be a perfect fit to provide the vertical threat the Gators have been lacking for some time now.

Martez Ivey, 6’6 271, is another five star prospect expected to make it in this weekend. The ESPN Top 100 (#7 overall) offensive tackle from Apopka, Florida high is the top offensive line prospect on the Gators board and quite possibly top line prospect in the nation going into his senior year. He was the anchor for the Florida Class 8A runnerup team which won the state title last season. While Ivey has offers from everyone including Alabama, the Gators have built a strong relationship and may be the team to beat here as well.

Right behind Ivey in the ESPN Top 100 is linebacker Jeff Holland from Jacksonville Trinity Christian who is also expected to make the trip down this weekend. Holland, 6’2 224, is the top linebacker on the Gators’ board for 2015 and one of the best in the country in next year’s cycle. He’s a highly versatile player who played running back, receiver, wildcat qb, defensive end, and special teams in addition to linebacker at Trinity Christian. The Gators want him specifically as a linebacker, however. They missed on their top targets at linebacker this year and will be looking to load up again with 4-5 in next year’s class. Holland is the cream of the crop and, like Ivey and Campbell, the Gators have set themselves up real well here.

Quarterback Torrance Gibson, from American Heritage high in Plantation, Florida is the top qb recruit on the Gators board for 2015 and is the 11th ranked player in the nation overall by ESPN. Gibson, the top dual threat quarterback for 2015, threw for 1,865 yards with 19 touchdowns and 3 interceptions while rushing for 1,032 yards and 10 td’s. With the Gators moving to a spread offense for the upcoming season under new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, the staff feels Gibson is a perfect fit and he is the main guy they will pursue. If George Campbell is their #1 offensive target, Gibson is #1A.

Tarvarus McFadden is the Gators' top corner recruit for 2015. Photo credit to twitter.com

Tarvarus McFadden is the Gators’ top corner recruit for 2015. Photo credit to twitter.com

Probably, there is no other spot on the field that the Gators have recruited better than at defensive back under Will Muschamp, a former defensive back himself, particularly at corner where they have gotten a five star in each of the last two cycles and have three potential first rounders in this year’s NFL draft. They look to continue that streak for 2015 with top recruit and consensus five star Tarvarus McFadden who is also from American Heritage high along with Gibson. At 6’3 188, McFadden is extremely tall for a corner, with long arms, great speed, good hips, and great instincts. Muschamp likes taller corners and McFadden may be the tallest in some time. Despite his height, he appears to be naturally fluid as a cornerback, able to flip his hips in coverage and make plays on balls that most smaller corners cannot make. He’s another that the Gators have really set themselves up well with and expect them to be a finalist for his services as well.

Jacques Patrick is a big running back from Timber Creek high in Orlando. The 6’1 220 pound prospect rushed for over 1,200 yards as a freshman. He then rushed for over 2,000 yards apiece as both a sophomore and a junior. He’s one of the top running backs in Florida for the 2015 class which is loaded with top backs and he’s also one of the Gators biggest targets at the position. However, Florida State and Alabama should provide formidable competition for his services.

Linebacker Tevon Coney will be on commitment watch this weekend in Gainesville.  Photo credit to scout.com

Linebacker Tevon Coney will be on commitment watch this weekend in Gainesville. Photo credit to scout.com

One guy that very well could commit this weekend when he visits is outside linebacker Tevon Coney from Palm Beach Gardens high school. Coney, 6’2 215, grew up a huge Gator fan and was excited when he received an offer from them a little over a week ago. He was supposed to visit last weekend but his plans fell through and instead hit up Miami for their junior day. Coney, like Holland, is a speedy outside linebacker with great instincts and good pass rushing skills. The Gators will seek to load up on linebackers in the 2015 cycle and Coney should commit sooner rather than later.

Tampa, Florida Sickles high prospect Ray Ray McCloud is being recruited by Florida at two different positions. At 5’9 175, he’s a little smallish for running back which he wants to play in college but is being recruited as such by the Florida offensive staff. On offense he’s got great moves and speed and is a legitimate threat to score every time he touches the ball. He’s also getting a look by the Florida defensive staff as a defensive back. Either way he’s a speedy playmaker who the Gators would love to pick up and they will have the opportunity to see him up close this weekend.

Finally, Apopka’s Chandler Cox is a versatile athlete that has a Florida offer and will be in Gainesville this weekend as well. Cox was a backup quarterback who was pressed into duty when the starter went down to season ending injury and led his team back to the state Class 8a title game. He can play multiple positions including fullback, tight end, special teams, and wildcat quarterback. He is also a big Gator fan and likely you will see a commitment from him sooner rather than later.

This weekend will be huge for Gator recruiting for 2015 with so many big name players coming in. The good news for Gator fans is a lot of these players have solid relationships with the Gator staff and will certainly be giving the Gators a good look. It’s quite possible as well that the Gators get a commitment or two coming out of this weekend. Either way these are some of the top names to follow for 2015 moving forward and the Gators’ staff has really set themselves up for another top ten recruiting class next year.

As always, stay tuned to Swamp Music for the latest FREE updates, news, info, and analysis on Gator recruiting and athletics.

Countdown to Signing Day: Strange Things Happen on the Road to Signing Day for the Florida Gators

Isaiah McKenzie is quickly becoming the most intriguing recruit left on the Gators' board.

Isaiah McKenzie is quickly becoming the most intriguing recruit left on the Gators’ board.

Less than a week from national signing day and things seem to change daily for the final few recruits left on the Gators board. Less than a week ago it appeared the Gators were in a numbers crunch with more leans than spots available. Now it appears they may not even max out the 25 scholarships available. Strange things happen on the road to signing day. Let’s dive right in.

Isaiah McKenzie the speedy receiver from Ft. Lauderdale appears to be overtaking J.C. Jackson as the most intriguing recruit left on the Gators board. The Gators, though late in the game on his recruitment, appeared to have a good shot at landing him after his official visit two weekends ago. When he left Gainesville, it appeared he was likely down to Notre Dame and Florida. That was before tripping to Ole Miss this past weekend.

Originally the thought was Ole Miss would be a distant third and the trip was a mere formality. But after leaving his visit he made statements to the effect that he loved the visit and Ole Miss had moved into the lead in his recruitment with one visit left to Notre Dame, to whom he had been considered a soft commit for months. Earlier in the week he appeared to be losing interest in the Fighting Irish as well.

Now it looks as though Virginia Tech is his “dream” school and he basically said he would go there if offered. Apparently, the offer came on Wednesday and that has thrown his recruitment wide open. He was scheduled to visit Notre Dame this weekend but it will be interesting to see if he takes that visit or possibly heads to Virginia Tech. Regardless, it appears the Gators are fading fast and it’s unlikely that they’ll be anything but a hat on the table for McKenzie. This one appears to be down to Ole Miss and Virginia Tech both of whom were not even considered in the ball park a week ago. Strange things happen on the road to signing day.

Are things looking up for the Gators and Lorenzo Carter? Photo credit to  AJC. com

Are things looking up for the Gators and Lorenzo Carter? Photo credit to AJC. com

Lorenzo Carter the consensus five star defensive end from Norcross, Georgia has been pursued by every major school out there. After visiting Florida last summer he listed the Gators as his leader. Over the course of the season, however, he made multiple trips to Georgia while failing to return to Florida for the FSU game as originally scheduled. This led to speculation that the Gators had fallen and Georgia had taken the lead. After the Under Armour All American game, however, he and his family made an impromptu stop in Gainesville to visit unofficially and came away with high praise for UF from both him and his family.

Since that point he made an official to LSU, long thought to be a long shot in his recruitment, and he came away impressed from that visit as well. When Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham surprisingly left to take the same spot with Louisville many thought that might tilt things in the Gators’ favor as most figured his recruitment to be down to UF and Georgia. But after Georgia head coach Mark Richt announced that FSU defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt would take over for Grantham that appeared to appease Carter who had developed a relationship with him while at Florida State.

Florida State and Alabama, the other finalists, were lurking in the shadows for the longest time and were considered only wild cards in his recruitment. When his parents mentioned the hardship they faced when another sibling went to school out of state many felt that would mean he would likely end up at Georgia which is only an hour away from his home. The fact that they mentioned a strong and longstanding relationship with the Georgia staff further entrenched that feeling the home state Bulldogs would get his signature. However, his parents also mentioned how much they loved Florida and the staff there. Obviously, he and his family had the longest and strongest relationships with those two schools, once again making those two schools the leader.

What all this means is his recruitment is wide open despite the opinions of many recruiting analysts who felt it was Georgia for the longest time. The latest developments in the Carter saga is the weather which apparently prevented FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher from making his scheduled in-home visit with the family on Wednesday. According to Michael Carvell of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, who has been instrumental in providing up to date coverage of Carter’s recruitment, Florida head coach Will Muschamp was expected to make his in-home on Thursday afternoon and luckily would likely not be prevented by the weather.

Carter, for his part, is scheduled to take his official visit to Georgia this weekend which is expected to start immediately following his basketball game Friday evening and run through the end of the contact period on Sunday evening. All this bodes ill for Florida State, good for the Gators, even better for the Bulldogs who get the last visit and likely last word. Reportedly, he will make his decision by Monday and inform the coaching staffs at that point but will not announce until signing day.

Most analysts are still predicting Georgia while a large many, oddly to me, think Alabama is his destination. Not quite sure where that’s coming from simply because I’ve heard little mention of them throughout this process. Of course, you can never count out Nick Saban and company, but I just don’t see it. I still think he ultimately ends up at Georgia with distance being the deciding factor. Personally, I think he really loves Florida and if it is simply his decision maybe he chooses the Gators but with the close knit nature of his family, a longstanding relationship with the Georgia staff, and them getting the final visit and final word, I think they are too much to overcome for Florida. For what it’s worth, Carvell apparently is picking Florida as the destination which is huge because he’s close to the family and probably has a better natural feel for the situation than anyone else. He thinks the lack of a position coach ultimately hurts the Dogs in the end.

Receiver C.J. Worton, from Miami South Dade high school, who backed off of his long time committment to FSU on Tuesday still appears to be wide open. The standout receiver who led his team to the Class 8A state championship was thought to be ready to commit to the Gators, considering he decommitted coming off an official visit there, but has yet to do so. West Virginia and Central Florida appear to be squarely in the thick of the race for his commitment. West Virginia consistently has one of the top offenses in the nation and has a long established spread offense which could be a strong lure over heading to Gainesville where they are switching to a spread this season but have no prior track record to showcase. UCF has the lure of playing with his older brother J.J. who is a star receiver for the Knights. The hometown Miami Hurricanes were thought to be receiving an official visit this weekend, the last before signing day, but that it appears that visit may not happen.

I still feel like Worton ultimately signs with the Gators. The idea of playing in the SEC and a premiere school like Florida is likely too much to pass over. However, don’t sleep on WVU or UCF here. The longer this one goes, the worse for the Gators but for now I’m sticking with the Gators as his destination.

Damien Prince is visiting Florida this weekend. Will he be in the Gators' class? Photo credit to the washingtonpost.com

Damien Prince is visiting Florida this weekend. Will he be in the Gators’ class? Photo credit to the washingtonpost.com

Damien Prince, the five star offensive lineman from Maryland, had is in-home on Wednesday with Coach Muschamp and is scheduled to take his official to Florida this weekend. The good news for Gator fans is that he will be the only official visitor unless they sneak another in at the last minute. This will allow them to focus attention on him and give him the full court press. This one is certainly down to two teams Florida and the home state Maryland Terrapins. As previously reported, good friend Jalen Tabor, who is already enrolled at Florida, is recruiting him hard and the staff has made it abundantly clear he is their top choice at tackle. While I think Maryland led for much of his recruitment simply due to proximity to home, I believe this one has turned in the Gators favor. As long as things go well this weekend, I believe he chooses the Gators on signing day.

Two other recruits the Gators’ have given a look to in case they miss out on Prince are Tucson, Arizona’s Andrew Mike and Havana, Florida’s Derrick Kelly. At this point, I don’t see either coming to Florida with Mike signing with Arkansas and Kelly heading to Baton Rouge to play for the LSU Tigers. Neither are off the board at this point but I think the staff has a good feeling about Prince and they’ll take him and be done. However, were things to go south this weekend, I think the staff would likely go after Kelly rather than Mike. That’s the only scenario in which I see the Gators taking him.

J.C. Jackson, the talented cornerback who flipped from the Seminoles to the Gators over the summer, has been rumored to not end up in the Gators class almost from the moment he pledged. Most figured he would end up flipping back to the Seminoles. After visiting Florida two weekends ago his father said he had shut his recruitment down and would not be taking anymore visits. As soon as that was announced, however, it appeared Miami worked their way into the picture. The Seminoles have been trying to talk him into visiting and head coach Jimbo Fisher made an in-home visit this week hoping to convince him to visit. Will Muschamp also visited this week attempting to squash a visit to Tallahassee. It appears that Muschamp won out here as his father publicly stated J.C. wouldn’t be making any visits this weekend. That would appear to eliminate the Noles. However, since his visit to Florida, J.C. has visited Miami multiple times including this past weekend for a basketball game. While I think Florida still leads here, there is a strong possibility that Jackson ultimately flips to Miami on signing day. If so, it would be a fitting end to a very strange recruitment.

Strange things happen on the road to signing day indeed.

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Countdown to Signing Day: Latest Word

FSU receiver commit C.J. Worton with receiver's coach Joker Phillips on his official visit to Florida.

FSU receiver commit C.J. Worton with receiver’s coach Joker Phillips on his official visit to Florida.

With only one week remaining until national signing day, the crunch is on for recruits who have yet to decide on a school and for staffs who seek to nail down the final few available slots. The Florida Gators have roughly four slots available at this time with a number of recruits left on their board. That number, of course, is highly fluid with questions remaining about a couple of guys currently committed to UF.

One recruit, offensive lineman Travaris Dorsey has questions about whether or not he will qualify academically. It’s a big enough issue that head coach Will Muschamp made a visit to his school last week to check on his academics. For what it’s worth, Dorsey claims that he is ok and will be able to qualify. Of course, don’t they always say that? Reportedly, the staff does plan to allow him to sign a letter of intent (LOI) on Wednesday.

The other recruit that is an even bigger question mark is corner back J.C. Jackson. He has been committed to Florida since last summer when he flipped his commitment from Florida State. Almost as quickly as he flipped to Florida it appeared that there were major questions about whether he would stay committed to the Gators. Partly due to his tight lipped nature which always leads to conspiracy theories by fans and partly due to his familial relationship with former Gator commit Ermon Lane (he’s a cousin), questions have been raised about whether or not Jackson would end up in the Gators’ class on signing day.

Despite the rumors, people around him have repeatedly indicated that he was solid to the Gators, mostly an uncle who has never established why or how he is a de facto spokesman for J.C. To say this recruitment has been odd would be an understatement. Regardless, on his official visit to Florida two weekends ago the staff put the full court press on Jackson and his father and appeared to nail this commitment down. Since that point, however, things have gotten even more foggy. For the longest time this recruitment appeared to be a two horse race between Florida and Florida State. However, since the OV to Florida it appears that Miami has inexplicably not only gotten into the race but has appeared to make up a lot of ground on the other two schools. Jackson has made numerous trips to Miami including this past weekend.

Now it appears that Miami has pulled even with Florida while Florida State has dropped considerably. Originally Jackson was scheduled to take an official visit to FSU this upcoming weekend, the last before signing day. After the Florida visit, it was reported that J.C. had shut his recruitment down and wouldn’t be taking the FSU trip. That led to speculation that Jackson was solid to Florida. Since then, however, it appears that his recruitment is far from shut down and is as wide open as it’s ever been. Reportedly, the Noles are out and it’s down to Florida and Miami. Very odd recruitment that continues to become more odd by the day. If it’s true, it may very well be that he doesn’t end up in Florida’s class as previously predicted by many but ends up as a Hurricane rather than a Seminole. This one is certainly trending away from Florida by the day.

While one trends away another trends towards the Gators. Receiver C.J. Worton, who took an official visit to Florida this past weekend and was scheduled to visit the Seminoles this weekend to whom he has been committed for a year, officially decommitted from the Noles via Twitter:

And with that the speculation began. This news can’t be anything but good for the Gators. Coming right on the heels of his official to Florida, with Florida ties and relationships with Florida players not to mention the opportunity for early playing time as the Gators seek playmakers for the soon to be installed spread offense, everything points to Worton signing with the Gators on NSD. To this point he has not officially committed to the Gators and there are other schools recruiting him but if his facebook cover shot is any indication he has possibly already silently committed to the Gators.

While some fans have decried his lack of “star” power as he is rated a three star player on most major recruiting services, anyone who has seen his highlights knows he has great potential. He’s projected as a slot receiver, a very important position in a spread offense as Gator fans saw with the last great slot receiver, Percy Harvin. While Worton certainly isn’t Percy, he doesn’t need to be. At 6’1 175 he’s a tall receiver who plays even taller. He’s very good at going up and grabbing balls over defenders, he has great hands catching everything in his vicinity, and he’s speedy enough to get separation from the linebackers and safeties he’ll be lined up against. In the Florida class 8A state title game against Apopka Worton had 6 catches for 159 yards and three touchdowns including the game winner. If he does indeed end up in the Gators’ class he very well could be the most underrated recruit they sign.

From underrated to top rated. The highest rated recruit left on the Gators board is two-way, two sport standout Adoree Jackson who narrowed his list of finalist schools from six to four today. As expected, the Gators made the final cut.

This set off a firestorm on social media sites as seems to be the case these days anytime a high profile recruit eliminates schools or decommits from schools over social media. Tennessee Volunteer fans inexplicably appeared to be the most upset for whatever reason they errantly had hope he might sign there. And despite his narrowing of the list from six to four, I still believe this is a two horse race between USC and Florida.

As has been reported previously, Jackson moved to Southern California to finish high school for the express purpose of attending college at USC. The staff turnover appeared to give Florida the needed boost take control of his recruitment. He’s long been considered a Gator lean largely due to his interest in playing both football and track in college, his relationship with Mike Holloway the head coach of the Gators 2nd ranked track team, and his relationship with Florida defensive backs coach and ace recruiter Travaris Robinson. Adoree is a legitimate Olympics candidate in track so the Mike Holloway angle cannot be ignored.

I still believe Florida has a great shot here particularly with the defensive back class the Gators are bringing in, their recent history of being top rated nationally on defense and sending db’s to the NFL, and the staff’s willingness to utilize him both defensively and offensively at Florida. However, it appears the new staff at USC has really done a nice job of stepping up to save his recruitment and there is a very, very good chance that he ultimately stays the course on his original plan. He is set to announce his final official visit on Thursday. That should be very telling on where he plans to sign. While many have had him leaning towards the Gators for months, I still feel like the Trojan’s have the edge right now.

Isaiah McKenzie who visited Florida two weekends ago and appeared to be enamored with new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and how he might fit into the new spread offense, tripped to Ole Miss this past weekend. While this recruitment appeared to be a two horse race between Notre Dame, who he’s been a soft commit to for some time, and Florida, it appears that Ole Miss has positioned themselves squarely in the race as well. Reportedly, he had a lot of positive things to say about Ole Miss and stopped just short of naming them his leader. Very surprising, but in the last few weeks before signing day, surprising is the norm. He has his final official visit to Notre Dame this weekend before making a signing day decision but it’s safe to say this one is certainly trending away from the Gators.

A couple of guys whose names keep being bandied about are receiver Travis Rudolph and defensive end Davon Godchaux. Rudolph, out of West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman high, is committed to Florida State but the staff continues to recruit him. Reportedly, the staff actually secured an in-home visit with him and his parents this week. For his part, he continues to be publicly committed to the Seminoles.

However, as long as the staff continues to recruit him the rumors will continue to fly. Florida obviously needs playmakers at receiver and, inexplicably, Florida State continues to lose committed recruits at the position. I think the staff does put the full court press on but ultimately he is all Nole. If, and it’s a big if, there is a surprise signing day flip that previously hasn’t been mentioned, this one would be the most likely.

Godchaux, has been rumored to be looking around for a while. He was at one point considering taking a visit to Florida. That visit had been squashed a couple of weeks ago, likely by LSU to whom he is currently committed. If Florida were to miss on top choice Lorenzo Carter, Godchaux would be a nice plan b. However, that’s simply not going to happen. The rumored visit to Florida was likely due to the staff putting out feelers in case Carter doesn’t come and maybe he thought he could take a free trip. More likely than not Godchaux is solid to the Tigers and this rumor should just be put to rest.

Speaking of Lorenzo Carter, he doesn’t appear to be any closer to making a decision with a week to go until signing day. Public statements indicate he is still torn between four schools,  Georgia, Florida, LSU, and Florida State, with all four scheduled to make in-home visits this week. Despite being long rumored to be a Georgia lock, he really does appear to be torn on this decision. Ultimately, I believe it is a two horse race between Georgia and Florida, but don’t count out LSU necessarily because he continues to bring up LSU as a school who puts out defensive lineman to the NFL. That’s obviously their selling point and it appears to be working at least a little bit. Of course, we all know Florida and Georgia do as well and both are much closer to home and he has a much longer standing relationship with the two. As always with recruiting, anything can happen between now and signing day but my gut feeling is Georgia leads and the Gators are a close second.

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Countdown to Signing Day: Weekend Rap, Final Board

Cornerback Quincy Wilson is the undisputed leader of the 2014 Florida Gator recruiting class.

Cornerback Quincy Wilson is the undisputed leader of the 2014 Florida Gator recruiting class.

With national signing day a mere week and a half away, the Florida Gators are trying to put the final touches on what is already considered a top ten class by most major services. On the second to the last recruiting weekend, the Gators hosted a small group which included cornerback commit Quincy Wilson, Florida State receiver commit C.J. Worton, and uncommitted offensive tackle Andrew Mike.

Quincy Wilson, the effervescent and ever-confident cornerback, has been the foundation of this Gator recruiting class since committing back in August. At 6’1 196, Wilson has all the necessary physical tools to succeed at Florida which has a long history of putting out top flight defensive backs going back to the 80’s when Jarvis Williams and Louis Oliver were roaming the backfield. Quincy is a long, tall, physical corner who fits the mold that head coach Will Muschamp prefers in his cornerbacks. He’s a natural at the position with great skills and instincts and will likely compete for a starting job this fall.

Perhaps, even more importantly, Wilson has been the glue that has held this class together in spite of the Gators’ struggles on the field this past season finishing with it’s first losing season since 1979. Quincy has been an ardent recruiter and supporter of Gator Nation not only to recruits in this year’s class but also in next year’s as well. He’s well known and well liked among south Florida recruits and his confidence is infectious and has made him a fan favorite.

By all accounts, Quincy had a great time on his official visit this weekend helping to recruit fellow south Florida player and Florida State commit C.J. Worton. A prolific social media star, Quincy has over 6,000 followers on Twitter, he has sung the praises of Gator Nation at every opportunity and had many good things to tweet this weekend.

C.J. Worton appeared to have a great time this weekend as well on his official visit to Florida. A long time FSU commit, he received an offer from the Gators coming out of all star week and has been looking around since. Many have felt for weeks that Worton ultimately will not be in the Seminole class on signing day. With the Gators missing out on their top two targets at receiver, Ermon Lane and Eric Lauderdale, the staff couldn’t have picked a better weekend to bring Worton in. For one, they had such a small group they were able to give max attention to Worton and make him fell welcome, secondly his host was fellow commit and early enrollee Will Grier who will likely by his quarterback should he pull the trigger for Florida, and finally who better for Worton to hang out with than Gator commit and South Florida superstar Quincy Wilson?

FSU receiver commit C.J. Worton with receiver's coach Joker Phillips on his official visit to Florida.

FSU receiver commit C.J. Worton with receiver’s coach Joker Phillips on his official visit to Florida.

For what it’s worth, Worton did not commit this weekend either publicly or silently and still publicly remains committed to FSU. His word is that he had a good time and has a lot to think about before signing day. Unfortunately, for the Gators, FSU gets that all important final visit next weekend right before the silent period leading to signing day. As is often the case with another team’s commit, if he doesn’t commit to your school the weekend he visits and his original school gets a late visit, it usually bodes ill for your team. Fortunately, for the Gators I’m not so sure that is the case here. 

For one, there’s a reason he’s looking around so late. For a guy who’s been committed to FSU for a year it’s very odd that he would start looking around and taking visits this late. Absent staff turnover, which is not the case here, it’s usually a sign there are problems in the relationship. Sometimes the staff continues to recruit players at his position and it upsets the recruit and causes him to look around ala Mike Davis a couple of years ago and sometimes the staff has stopped recruiting that player and to save face he remains committed until he finds another school. With FSU only having one other receiver committed and it’s class more than full, the former is certainly not the case. Could it be the latter? That situation doesn’t make sense either with only one other receiver committed and rumors that he might flip as well floating about.

Secondly, his family likes Florida. An older brother, Cody, was a walk on at Florida under Urban Meyer and his mom reportedly loves the academics and is impressed with the staff. That’s always a positive sign when the family is on board. With the FSU visit coming up this weekend we should know by Sunday which way he’s truly leaning. I feel certain though that should he not sign with FSU he will be a Gator.

Finally, offensive tackle Andrew Mike’s visit was somewhat tight lipped other than the standard “he had a great time” that every recruit says. Have you ever heard one say, “man that visit sucked. Those people don’t have a clue what they’re doing”? I’ve seen recruits screw up visits royally but I’ve never heard of a school doing that. For what it’s worth, this one is likely a Arkansas-UF battle in the end with hometown Arizona Wildcats being a wildcard no pun intended. Like with Worton, Mike did not commit on his visit and will be talking things over with his parents over the next week or so before he makes a decision.

With top OL target Damien Prince still on the board and coming the final weekend, it’s unclear if the staff would have allowed Mike to commit on this trip if he so desired. With the Gators board dwindling by the day it’s very possible the staff could take both Mike and Prince but it is as of yet unclear if they actually will.

Absent the sleeper recruits that pop up near signing day every year, the Gators board has been reduced to cornerback/receiver Adoree Jackson, offensive tackles Damien Prince and Andrew Mike, receiver’s Isaiah McKenzie and C.J. Worton, quarterback Treon Harris, and defensive ends Lorenzo Carter and Rocel McWilliams. There are other names that may or may not be fallback guys but these are the guys that have committable offers and are the main guys that we should focus on moving forward.

To be clear, the Gators are done at running back, they are satisfied with Brandon Powell and are not recruiting anyone else at this point. They are also not going to take a linebacker in this cycle. A lot of rumors have been bandied about concerning Richard Yeargin III a linebacker who decommitted from Notre Dame a couple of days ago. The staff is not recruiting him and he is not a candidate. He’s likely to choose his original runner up school Clemson. There was a lot of fodder over the summer that he tried to commit to Florida but was not allowed to by the staff before choosing Notre Dame. That story does have some wheels. After taking four top rated linebackers last cycle, the staff had only a few top guys targeted, mainly Christian Miller, but were unable to secure a commitment and decided that they will not reach for one this cycle. 2015 is loaded with top recruits that favor the Gators and they want to be able to load up on top talent next year.

Under Armour All American and two way. two sport star Adoree Jackson is the highest rated recruit left on the Gators board for 2014. Photo credit to ESPN.

Under Armour All American and two way. two sport star Adoree Jackson is the highest rated recruit left on the Gators board for 2014. Photo credit to ESPN.

Adoree Jackson is the highest rated recruit left on the board and is likely a signing day decision. He continues to drag out the drama of who will receive his final visit next weekend. For his part, he has never officially visited UF but did visit on his own dime last summer and says he has seen all he needs to so it’s not important for him to take an official there. You can take that with a grain of salt. The other major player, USC, is also a school he hasn’t taken an official to but has also visited unofficially numerous times as he is going to school in the area. Being from the midwest, Jackson reportedly moved to SoCal to live with his sister and play football/track with the express desire to go to USC. With the staff changes those plans appeared to be up in the air and the Gators were thought to have gained the upper hand in his recruitment due in large part to his relationship with UF track coach Mike Holloway and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson his position coach and UF’s ace recruiter.

Recently, however, his recruitment has been trending away from UF. Many feel the new staff at USC has quieted his concerns and has all but gained his verbal committment. New head coach Steve Sarkisian is a great recruiter as witnessed by his recent flip of Alabama quarterback commit Ricky Towns and many feel he has convinced Jackson to stick with his original plan. I, as have many, have long felt Jackson would be a Gator but my confidence in that is dwindling by the day simply because he has stopped talking about UF almost entirely. The fact that he is unlikely to take an official to Florida at first didn’t bother me because he’s been there, has a great relationship with the staff, and UF has a top rated track program. However, if he does indeed take an official to USC on the final weekend you can pencil him into the Trojan class. For what it’s worth, he lists six schools as finalists but I personally believe it’s a USC/UF battle in the end (sorry FSU). My gut feeling here is Trojan.

Damien Prince is another top guy at a position of high need. With the Gators losing the middle of their offensive line and loads of experience it is important the staff bring in as much quality talent there as they can. Prince is a guy they got in on late but recent developments have worked in Florida’s favor. First, the Gators secured a commitment and early enrollment from top corner Jalen Tabor from nearby Washington, DC and a close friend of Prince’s. Tabor has been very public about his recruitment of his good buddy to the Gators. That alone can’t hurt. Secondly, the home state Maryland Terrapins, where many thought he would end up due to distance, recently lost his position coach which also helps the Gators’ fortunes. Add in reports that the staff sold his mother on going to UF and you have a solid trifecta in Florida’s favor. It helps a bunch that they get his last visit and that his buddy Tabor is enrolled and will be there to show him around and sell him on playing together. This one is certainly trending up for Florida and my gut feeling is on signing day he will be a Gator.

This brings us to Isaiah McKenzie the speedy slot receiver who tripped to Florida last weekend and took an official to Ole Miss this past weekend. Not much word on how this visit went, but realistically this recruitment is likely a Notre Dame/UF battle in the end. He is considered a soft commit to Notre Dame by many services and they get his last visit next weekend. The Gators visited with him this past week just a couple of days after his official visit which shows how much the staff wants him in this class as they look for offensive playmakers to fill needed roles in new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper’s spread offense. The word coming out of last weekend’s visit to Florida was very positive and he publicly stated that the new system is a good fit for his skill set. The biggest question will be how tight is his bond with Notre Dame and how much does that final visit play a role in his final decision.

As is usually the case with recruiting, relationships are key and the final visit can be a deal maker or breaker. With Notre Dame having a much longer established relationship with McKenzie AND with them getting the final visit, it may be too much ground for the Gators to make up here. For what it’s worth, Gator people feel good about their chances here but my personal feeling is Notre Dame is too much and the Gators were too little and too late on this one. I think he’ll be in the Fighting Irish class come signing day.

At quarterback, it’s very clear the staff wants one more in this class to pair with top choice Will Grier who is already enrolled. it’s also very clear that one guy is FSU commit Treon Harris. Harris has long been a Nole commit but they recruited him as a defensive back and he really wants a shot at quarterback in college. He visited UF last weekend with his parents and reports were that he and his family were impressed with Florida and how they plan to use Treon. Auburn has snuck in the back door getting a visit from him this past weekend and is recruiting him as an athlete. Might they have tipped his hand a little with their spread offense which had them playing the Noles for a national championship this past season? Possibly, but my feeling is not likely. I truly believe this will be an FSU/UF battle in the end and I don’t see him ending up in the Noles class. As I said before, any time a long time commit starts looking around and visiting this close to signing day it’s not a good sign for the team he’s commited to. The Gators are the only team to recruit him specifically as a quarterback and my feeling is that he flips to the Gators on signing day.

At defensive end, it’s no secret the Gators top target has long been Lorenzo Carter out of Norcross, Georgia. The Gators have been locked in a tight recruiting battle with the home state Georgia Bulldogs for some time and now it appears LSU, where he visited last weekend, and FSU have crept in as well.

All American Lorenzo Carter is the top defensive line target remaining for the Gators. Photo credit to  AJC. com

All American Lorenzo Carter is the top defensive line target remaining for the Gators. Photo credit to AJC. com

Carter named the Gators as his leader after visiting last summer but that lead appeared to dwindle over the season as he failed to make it back to campus for the FSU game while taking multiple visits to Athens. Many have felt for months that Georgia was the team to beat until defensive coordinator Todd Grantham left to become the DC at Louisville. However, when Georgia head coach Mark Richt hired FSU defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt as their new DC they appeared to save this recruitment just as many felt Florida might regain the edge.

After the LSU visit, Carter made it public that his recruitment was still wide open despite reports otherwise and he wouldn’t be naming any leaders. He also is taking a final visit to FSU this coming weekend before making a final decision. He also said that Florida has not lost any ground in his recruitment. What does this mean? It means the Gators are solidly in the thick of things. His family, while stating they will support his decision wherever he chooses to go, did make the statement that an older daughter going to school out of state was a hardship because they were unable to visit, which means a lot in regards to his recruitment. I, personally, don’t see him tripping all the way to Baton Rouge. Georgia looks to be the leader and likely destination here in spite of what he says with Florida a close second and FSU a distant third. Of course, it’s possible the Noles make up some ground on his visit this weekend but with the turnover they haven’t had time to build the relationship that either Georgia or Florida has. His family has also stated that they were impressed with Florida and the staff but in the end I think distance and Jeremy Pruitt are too much for the Gators to overcome and he will be a Bulldog on signing day.

Which brings us to Rocel McWilliams out of Pensacola, Florida. McWilliams was a surprise visitor last weekend to UF but came away impressed with everything. The Missouri commit admittedly has a lot to think about. He was set to attend Missouri with teammate Lawrence Lee when the Gators offered in late December. His visit last weekend left him torn between the school and staff he had long committed to and built a great relationship with and a dream school. His family are huge Gator fans, especially his father, and while they publicly support his decision regardless, he admits they are strongly pushing him to Florida. Add in distance, a six hour drive to Gainesville versus a 16 plus hour drive to Missouri and the Gators have a lot of going in their favor right now. He took his official to Missouri this weekend and while still publicly committed to the Tigers he has stated he is still confused and not sure what his final decision will be. Personally, I think that bodes well for the Gators. In the end, I think he will go with family ties and distance and his heart and ends up a Gator on signing day.

And as always stay tuned to Swamp Music for the latest updates and FREE news, analysis, and opinion relating to Florida Gator recruiting and athletics.